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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI College of Pharmacy's Outreach Program: Reaching Out to Rhode Islanders

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 28, 1999 -- A 49-year-old woman living in a homeless shelter and working part time knew she did not have the funds to buy expensive medication, but she needed it to recover from her eye surgery last December.

She turned to the University of Rhode Island,s Medication for the Needy program, which serves as a clearinghouse of information for patient assistance programs offered by the pharmaceutical industry.

Knowing the medicine was critical, URI pharmacists immediately contacted her doctor and the drug manufacturers. After making the appropriate connections, the woman received her medications. She said getting the prescription was "the best Christmas present ever.

The drug industry has a long-standing tradition of providing free medications to physicians for a patient who might otherwise do without necessary drugs. The URI program provides concise information, counseling, and advice about these programs and helps assess the chances for successfully enrolling patients.

For the past three years, Robert A. Saritelli, of North Kingstown, a registered pharmacist at URI, has run the program.

As coordinator, Saritelli oversees four staff members: Nancy Tortolani, and Bill Fournier both URI graduates and residents of Wyoming and Hope Valley, Rhode Island; and, Lisabeth Cerullo, a consultant pharmacist from Scituate; and Kimberley Jackson, a doctoral student from Scotland, who will receive her Ph.D. from URI this semester, is joining the program for the summer. Jackson will use her computer skills to help develop a site on the Worldwide Web for the benefit of those seeking assistance from this URI program.

"Citizens of the state and region will be able to access a great deal of health care information that will be helpful to them in planning where and how to receive their medications and pharmaceutical services said Louis Luzzi, dean of the College of Pharmacy. It is also an appropriate way for physicians, pharmacists, and patients to identify suppliers of medications. It is especially important for health care professionals to help procure drugs for indigent patients.

"Our goal is to encourage physicians to enroll more needy patients in the assistance programs offered by the pharmaceutical industry, Saritelli said. The program helps physicians, social workers, health professionals and family members navigate the maze of requirements so patients receive needed medications.

In its first three years, the program received and reviewed more than 2,000 applications, and provided information and advice on how to obtain help on more than 3,000 medications.

The Medication for the Needy program is just one of the several programs that operates under the umbrella of the URI Pharmacy Outreach program.

The other programs include the Medication Information Hotline (800-287-5571), in which staff members answer drug questions from the community; the Medication Education Resource Center and the Medication-Alcohol Intervention Program, providing services ranging from "Brown Bag medication patient counseling to conducting workshops on health-related topics, health screenings and lectures at various elderly sites and Health fairs throughout Rhode Island.

"URI pharmacists have traveled the state visiting hundreds of sites helping thousands of people make informed decisions on their medications, Saritelli said. "They have taken thousands of calls on their hot lines.

To reach the Medication for the Needy program, please call 1-800-215-9001.

For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

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Copyright 1999
University of Rhode Island

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